Best States for Teen Drivers Ranking Methodology

How U.S. News did the Best States for Teen Drivers rankings

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Our teen driving ranking methodology has 11 variables. Five of the variables are based on driver's license, car accident fatality, and road quality statistics for each state compiled by the federal government. The other six variables are based on ratings of each state's driving and road safety laws compiled by two independent organizations.

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  • The five variables that use statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Census Bureau are percent of teen population with driver's licenses (10-year average); teen driver deaths per year (10-year average); percent of teen driver deaths involving alcohol/drugs (10-year average); percent of roads rated good/very good; and vehicle miles traveled per capita in the state (five-year average).

    To compare states on the safety of their driving laws, U.S. News used independently developed ratings from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates, http://www.saferoads.org/) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, http://www.iihs.org/). The six variables in the methodology that use Advocates and IIHS ratings are teen driver's license laws (Advocates); motorcycle helmet laws (IIHS); safety-belt use laws (IIHS); DUI/DWI laws (Advocates); distracted-driving/texting-while-driving laws (Advocates); and red light and speeding camera laws (IIHS).

    The Advocates and the IIHS ratings were both published in January 2010 and are based on the driving laws that existed in each state at that time. Changes in state driving laws after the January 2010 publication of the Advocates and IIHS ratings are not reflected in the U.S. News Best States for Teen Drivers rankings published on March 18, 2010.

    The weights used in the Best States for Teen Drivers rankings reflect U.S. News's analytical judgment on the relative importance each factor should have in the Best States for Teen Drivers rankings.

    Detailed descriptions of the ranking variables used in the Best States for Teen Drivers ranking methodology

    1. Percent of teen population with driver's licenses (10-year average). This variable is based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration and population figures for each state from the U.S. Census Bureau. This factor counts for 10 percent of a state's ranking. States with lower percentages of teens who are licensed drivers score higher in the ranking. The most recent data are from 2008.

    2. Teen driver deaths per year (10-year average). This variable is based on data on teen driver deaths per licensed teen driver from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The factor counts for 20 percent of a state's ranking. States with a smaller percentage of teen driver deaths per licensed teen driver score higher than states with a larger number of deaths. The most recent data are from 2008.

    3. Percent of teen driver deaths involving alcohol/drugs (10-year average). This variable is based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The factor counts for 10 percent of a state's ranking. States with a smaller percentage of alcohol- and drug-related teen driving deaths score higher than states with a larger percentage. The most recent data are from 2008.

    4. Teen driver's license laws. This variable is based on ratings from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. The factor counts for 20 percent of a state's ranking. The ratings evaluate graduated driver licensing laws, which restrict teenagers' driving privileges until they acquire more experience. GDL laws usually consist of a learner's stage, an intermediate stage, and an unrestricted driving stage. The learner's stage requires teenage drivers to complete a minimum number of months of adult-supervised driving in order to obtain a full license. The intermediate stage restricts teens from driving alone in certain situations—such as at night or with teen passengers—for a specified time before receiving a full license. The Advocates rated the states on the degrees to which they have passed laws regarding seven components of GDL laws, including Learner's Stage: minimum age 16 for learner's permit; Learner's Stage: six-month holding period; Learner's Stage: 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving; Intermediate Stage: nighttime driving restriction; Intermediate Stage: passenger restriction; cellphone restriction; and age 18 for unrestricted license. A rating of Excellent means the state has enacted into law six of the seven graduated driver licensing provisions recommended by the Advocates. A rating of Insufficient means the state has enacted into law at least two to five of the seven graduated driver licensing provisions recommended by the Advocates. A rating of Failing means the state has enacted into law fewer than two of the seven graduated driver licensing provisions.